A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre

This book was published in 2006 and I think it’s the third or fourth book which I’ve read by Christopher Brookmyre. He’s a Scottish author who writes about the nitty gritty side of the west of Scotland. He can be very funny but most of this one is written in very broad ‘Glaswegian’, it does have a glossary but I think it would be quite a difficult read for a lot of people.

This is another investigation for Karen who is now a detective inspector and the murder victim was at school with her, as was the chief suspect. I think that the storyline itself is good but all the grot that goes along with it is a bit too much. Plus this one has a lot about football matches in it and although I don’t skim read usually I must admit that I ended up doing that at the football bits because all the descriptions of matches meant nothing to me.

It’s a trip back to school and the school playground with all the nastiness and cruelty that that entails. The language throughout is very ‘blue’ and it’s set in a Roman Catholic atmosphere, alien to me as I went to a state school or Proddy school, as the RCs wrongly call them.

But apart from the religious bits the biggest difference seems to have been that in those days of getting the belt/tawse as a punishment, there seems to have been a maximum of 4 strokes – 2 on each hand. At my school they could give you 6 maximum and all on the same hand! The belt was a heavy leather strap with ‘tongues’ at the end, usually two, sometimes three.

Within the glossary Brookmyre states that the belt/tawse was outlawed in the 1980s less on humanitarian grounds than upon the belated realisation that the weans were having competitions to see who could get the most lashes.

In fact corporal punishment was banned in Scottish schools by the European Union. One Fife mother (not me) took the education authority to the European Court because she was outraged that her son had got the belt. The children weren’t all that happy about it at the time because most of them preferred to get the punishment over with quickly, rather than having to do detention or write lines or whatever. Ah we’re never happy are we!

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